"We are now working in China with the aim of offering food with zero grams of trans fats at anearly date," Roger Sun, a spokesman at Starbucks China, told the Shanghai Daily in an e-mailedstatement this week.The coffee company has already announced that about half of its US stores will have converted tozero grams of trans fats from 3 January this year.
Trans fatty acids - also known as trans fats - are formed when liquidvegetable oils are partially hydrogenated or 'hardened' for use as spreads such as margarine,cooking fats for deep-frying and shortening for baking. Foods high in trans or saturated fatty acidsincrease blood cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. They have beenblamed for the high rates of heart disease in western nations.
Although awareness of trans fats is not as high in China as the US, industry has already startedworking to reduce the harmful substances.
Zhu Nianlin, president of the China Association of Bakery and ConfectioneryIndustry told AP-Foodtechnology.com that the issue is of growing concern in the market.
"I don't think Chinese consumers are very familiar with the concept of'trans fats' now, though I believe as there is more and more media coverage of it, they willbecome more concerned," he said. "The Chinese food industry has seen the need to pay attention to trans fatsfor a few years now and many big vegetable oils producers are working on how to reduce the remainsof trans fats after the hydrogenization of vegetable oils."
He added that the establishment of a standard on trans fats is on the agenda ofthe Standardization Administration but it is not know when the standard will be completed.
Starbucks has not revealed a schedule for its reduction of trans fats in itsChina stores.
The US coffee chain opened its first store in China in 1999 and now operatesmore than 200 in 20 cities. China, where consumers traditionally consume tea rather than coffee, isexpected to become the largest overseas market for Starbucks outside North America.